A nicely weighted envelope arrived on my desk a few weeks ago. A rare thing in this digital age. In it was a very nice note from Peter Ducker FIH, the Chief Executive of the Institute of Hospitality, inviting me to the Institute’s Annual Lunch at The Lancaster Hotel on the 29th of May. He said it was in recognition of my contribution as a judge at the Passion4Hospitality Student Debate. In any case a very unexpected, if pleasant surprise for which I am most grateful.
At last the day arrived and on a grey overcast morning in London, I ventured in and took my seat at the Annual General Meeting which was convened an hour before lunch. Although attendance to this is not obligatory, I was keen to get a better understanding of the Institute and the committee members who have shaped it into what it is today. I did find the proceedings very formal, almost to the point of sedentary, but I suspect this belies the hard work and debate that goes on behind the scenes. Certainly it gave me a snapshot of the institute’s challenges and opportunities ahead. In business-like manner the Agenda was judiciously dispensed, proposals were seconded and as lunch loomed, the ayes eventually had it. ‘No scandal’, quipped one member as we got up from our seats.
At the pre-lunch reception we were greeted by very friendly service staff proffering Champagne and delicate little canapés. What a great first impression. Catching up with old friends and making new ones is always a highlight on such occasions. Eventually as the chatter became more animated (Champagne does that, I find), our Toastmaster reassuringly announced that Lunch was now served. Finding my table, it was only when I got introduced to my fellow diners that I began to realise the sheer breadth of talent that turned out to celebrate our industry on this occasion. Sitting next to me for example, was Anna-Marie Dowling, the General Manager of the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow Terminal 5. She oversees a massively busy operation with her team of 390 staff. Just last week they had an unexpected influx of 600 air passengers left stranded as a result of the runways being closed. The hotel was already full, so that was quiet a challenge.
The food at The Lancaster was absolutely superb and only matched by the super-friendly and efficient service. Only later, we found out we had been ‘guinea pigs’ as part of an elaborate initiative to include other ‘non F&B’ departments from around the hotel in the service of our meal that day. So HR, payroll and the other department heads stood shoulder to shoulder with the waiters and waitresses. This was a great team-building exercise and for the Hotel and a chance to showcase their Hospitality Assured values for which they were to win an award later in the proceedings. Speeches were made between courses with the grand finale of the annual Hospitality Assured awards being announced before we had pudding (as we call it here in Oxford). You can read all about the winners here. The people in those operations are certainly a credit to this industry.
Overall, the event was a huge success and the team at the Institute can all feel very proud of a job well done. It was great being in the company of such passionate people and I enjoyed listening to some very different perspectives. What a great boost to morale knowing the industry attracts people like these into it. Funny, now I think about it: a Hospitality Assured lunch to illustrate how the future of Hospitality is indeed assured.
If you want to know more about joining the Institute of Hospitality then please call 0208 661 4927 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And why not rise to the challenge of gaining the Hospitality Assured accreditation. As someone who has been through the process, I know firsthand that in striving to meet the criteria required, you and your business will benefit in ways that might surprise you.